Boerboel

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boerboel portrait
Step into the world of Boerboels, the majestic canine titans from South Africa! Loved for their imposing stature, unparalleled loyalty, and a heart as big as their build, Boerboels are more than just pets - they're a compelling blend of protector and companion.

Join us in this comprehensive guide as we explore everything you need to know about this breed, including their appearance, temperament, ideal environment, grooming, exercise requirements, training tips, dietary needs, health concerns, history, and more.

Best For

The Boerboel is a perfect match for active, confident individuals who love a challenge. With their high energy levels and protective instincts, they thrive in a family setting where they can play the role of both loyal companion and vigilant guardian. If you’re up for an adventure, a Boerboel could be your best friend!

Overview

OFFICIAL NAMEBoerboel
OTHER NAMESSouth African Mastiff
ORIGINSouth Africa
BREED GROUPWorking Group
BREED SIZEGiant
HEIGHT22-27 inches
WEIGHT15-200 lbs
LIFESPAN9-11 years
LIVING SPACELarge
SENSITIVITY TO COLD WEATHERModerate
SENSITIVITY TO WARM WEATHERModerate
GROOMING NEEDSLow
EXERCISE NEEDSVery High
TRAINABILITYModerate
BARKING TENDENCYModerate
BITING TENDENCYLow
DROOLING TENDENCYHigh
SHEDDING LEVELModerate
POPULARITY RANK118th
boerboel walking through grass
Photo: THP Creative

Appearance

The Boerboel is a majestic creature of commanding presence. They are a large breed, with males standing tall at 24 to 27 inches, while females measure up at 22 to 25 inches. Don’t be surprised if they tip the scales between 150 and 200 pounds – they’re heavyweights in every sense.

Their bodies are a sight to behold, boasting a broad, muscular frame that speaks volumes about their strength and power. But don’t let that intimidate you! Their physical prowess is beautifully balanced by a graceful gait, making them as elegant as they are robust.

The head of a Boerboel is its crowning glory, large and blocky yet proportionate to its body. Their expressive eyes, usually dark brown or amber, radiate intelligence and curiosity. A glance from a Boerboel is enough to convey a world of emotions, from stern vigilance to warm affection.

Their ears are medium-sized, V-shaped, and set high on the head, always alert and ready to pick up the faintest sounds. As for their tail, it’s usually docked short, but when left natural, it’s long and set fairly high, adding an extra dash of charm to their appearance.

But perhaps the most striking feature of a Boerboel is its coat. Short and dense, it serves as the perfect showcase for the variety of colors they come in – from light fawn or red to beautiful brindle and everything in between. Some Boerboels even sport a charming black mask that adds an intriguing touch to their looks!

Despite their imposing size, Boerboels carry themselves with a quiet confidence that’s hard to miss. Their expression is one of calm assurance, reflecting their fearless nature and unwavering loyalty.

In essence, the Boerboel is a blend of strength, elegance, and charm, wrapped up in a glossy coat and topped off with a captivating gaze. Whether they’re striding majestically by your side or simply lounging around, their physical attributes never fail to make a lasting impression. This is a breed that truly embodies beauty in strength!

boerboel walking at a park
Photo: 947051/Pixabay

Temperament

The Boerboel boasts an equally impressive temperament. These dogs are the epitome of loyalty, and their devotion to their human family is second to none. They’re not just pets; they’re steadfast companions who’ll stand by your side through thick and thin.

One of the most striking aspects of a Boerboel’s personality is their protective nature. Born to guard, they have an inherent instinct to protect their loved ones. You’ll often find them vigilantly watching over their home and family, always ready to step in if they sense any threat. But remember, they’re not aggressive without reason. A well-socialized Boerboel knows when to be protective and when to relax.

Boerboels are intelligent dogs with a keen sense of understanding. They’re quick learners who pick up on things easily, making them a joy to interact with. Their sharp minds need constant stimulation, so don’t be surprised if they’re always up for a game of puzzle toys or mental challenges!

Despite their formidable size, Boerboels are incredibly affectionate. They love being around their human family and thrive on attention. They’re the kind of dogs who’ll happily laze around on the couch with you after a long day, their heads resting on your lap. This gentle, loving side of their personality is what endears them to their owners.

However, Boerboels are not for everyone. They’re strong-willed and confident, and they need an owner who can match their spirit. They respect authority and respond well to a firm, consistent leader. In the right hands, a Boerboel is a joy to live with – obedient, respectful, and incredibly loyal.

These dogs are also known for their patience, especially with children. They’re gentle and caring with kids, making them excellent family pets. However, because of their size, supervision is necessary during playtime to ensure safety for all.

In terms of sociability, Boerboels tend to be reserved around strangers. They’re not immediately friendly, but once they get to know someone, they’re usually polite and accepting. Early socialization is key to help them be more comfortable around new people and situations.

Boerboels also get along well with other animals, especially if they’re raised together. They’re generally peaceful cohabitants, but like any dog, they appreciate having their personal space respected.

two boerboels walking in the forest
Photo: Lucas Pezeta/Pexels

Ideal Environment

Boerboels are not just any dog breed; they’re a lifestyle. These canine giants need an environment that matches their grandeur and spirit. But fret not, creating the perfect setting for a Boerboel is not as daunting as it might sound.

Physical Environment

Firstly, let’s talk about the physical environment. Boerboels, with their large size and energetic nature, thrive in spacious homes with plenty of room to move around. A house with a big backyard would be their paradise! They love to explore, play, and keep an eye on their territory. Apartments or small spaces may not be the best fit for these sizable pups.

Climate Adaptability

Climate-wise, Boerboels can adapt to different weather conditions. However, they’re originally from South Africa, so they’re more comfortable in warmer climates. Their short, dense coat doesn’t provide much protection against harsh cold, so if you live in a colder region, extra care like warm clothing and indoor living during winter is essential. Equally, in extreme heat, ensure they have plenty of shade and water to prevent overheating.

Ideal Owner

Now, onto the human environment. Boerboels are best suited to confident pet parents who can provide firm, consistent leadership. They respect authority and respond well to positive, assertive training methods. First-time dog owners or those who prefer a more laid-back pet might find the Boerboel’s strong personality a bit challenging.

They adore children and are incredibly protective of them. However, due to their size, supervision during playtime is necessary to ensure everyone’s safety.

Other Pets

As for other pets, Boerboels can coexist peacefully with them, especially if they’re introduced as puppies. Early socialization with other animals will help your Boerboel become a well-rounded, tolerant adult dog.

boerboel relaxing by the lake
Photo: jfjacobsz2

Grooming

Despite their large size and robust appearance, Boerboels are relatively low-maintenance when it comes to their grooming needs. But remember, ‘low-maintenance’ doesn’t mean ‘no maintenance’. So, let’s dive into the specifics.

Coat Care

Let’s start with their coat. Boerboels have a short, dense coat that sheds moderately. Regular brushing, about once a week, should be enough to keep their shedding under control and their coat looking healthy and shiny. A slicker brush or a grooming mitt will do the trick, efficiently removing loose hair and distributing the natural oils across their coat.

Bath time doesn’t need to be a frequent affair for these dogs. Unless your Boerboel has rolled in something smelly or has been frolicking in the mud, you can get away with bathing them every few months. Use a dog-specific shampoo to maintain the pH balance of their skin and prevent any potential skin issues.

Dental Care

Next up, dental care. Just like us, Boerboels need regular dental check-ups to maintain a healthy set of teeth. Brushing their teeth a few times a week is ideal. Dog-friendly toothpaste and toothbrushes are readily available and can make this task easier. Dental chews can also be a great supplement to help keep their teeth clean and their gums healthy.

Nail Trimming

Don’t forget those nails! Boerboels are active dogs, and if they’re regularly running on hard surfaces, their nails might naturally wear down. However, regular checks are necessary. If you hear a clicking sound when they walk on hard floors, it’s time for a trim. Nail clippers or grinders designed for large breeds are your best bet here.

Ear Care

Lastly, let’s talk about ears. Boerboels have V-shaped ears that need regular checking and cleaning. Once a week, take a peek inside their ears. They should be clean and odor-free. If you notice any redness, swelling, or a strong odor, it’s best to consult a vet. For regular cleaning, use a veterinarian-recommended ear cleaner and cotton balls.

boerboel standing in the nature
Photo: Dmytro_Skorobogatov/Getty Images

Exercise

Boerboels are not couch potatoes; they’re action heroes in the canine world! With their high energy levels and muscular build, these dogs crave regular exercise to keep them happy and healthy. So, if you’re thinking of welcoming a Boerboel into your home, get ready to embrace an active lifestyle.

Exercise Amount & Types

A daily exercise routine for a Boerboel should ideally be around one to two hours. This doesn’t mean you need to start training for a marathon! Exercise can be as simple as a brisk walk around the neighborhood or a game of fetch in the backyard.

Boerboels love to play, and incorporating games into their exercise routine can be a fun way to keep them engaged. Try a tug-of-war session with a sturdy rope toy or set up a mini obstacle course in your garden. These activities will not only give them a physical workout but also stimulate their intelligent minds.

Exercise for a Boerboel is not just about physical activity; it’s also about bonding time with their favorite human – you! They’ll love spending time with you, whether it’s exploring a new trail or simply playing catch in the park.

Dog Sports

If you’re feeling adventurous, why not try some dog sports? Boerboels are known to excel in competitions like obedience trials, agility courses, and even weight-pulling contests. Participating in such events can be a great way to channel their energy and showcase their impressive abilities.

Exercise Precautions

However, remember that Boerboels are heavy dogs, and high-impact exercises like long-distance running or jumping can put undue stress on their joints, especially when they’re still growing. Always ensure that the activities you choose are suitable for their age and health condition.

young boerboel standing in the forest lane
Photo: Elles Rijsdijk

Training

Training a Boerboel is like shaping a block of marble into a beautiful sculpture. With their intelligence and eagerness to please, these dogs are highly trainable. But remember, they’re not pushovers. They need a trainer who can guide them with firmness, consistency, and a whole lot of patience.

Start training your Boerboel as early as possible. Puppies are like sponges, ready to soak up all the knowledge you’re willing to share. Basic obedience commands like ‘sit’, ‘stay’, ‘come’, and ‘leave it’ are great starting points. These commands not only teach them good manners but also help establish your role as the pack leader.

Boerboels are protective by nature, and while this trait makes them excellent guard dogs, it’s essential to ensure that their protective instincts are properly managed. Socialization plays a key role here. Expose your Boerboel to a variety of people, places, and situations to help them become well-adjusted adults.

Remember, training should always be a positive experience for your Boerboel. Use rewards-based methods to motivate them. Treats, praises, or a game of fetch can work wonders in encouraging them to learn. Avoid harsh corrections or punishment, as this can lead to fear and aggression.

Consistency is crucial in training. Make sure all family members follow the same rules and commands. Mixed signals can confuse your Boerboel and slow down the training process.

Finally, don’t forget mental stimulation. Boerboels are smart dogs and they love challenges. Incorporate puzzle toys or brain games into their routine to keep their minds sharp.

boerboel playing in the sand
Photo: Luana Erkel/Getty Images

Diet & Nutrition 

Feeding a Boerboel is like fueling a luxury sports car – it requires top-quality ingredients to keep the engine running smoothly. With their large size and high energy levels, these dogs have specific dietary needs that should be met for them to thrive.

What to Feed & How Much

Firstly, let’s talk about what to feed your Boerboel. Whether it’s dry food, wet food, or a raw diet, always opt for high-quality products that follow the AAFCO guidelines. Look for food that’s rich in lean proteins to support their muscular build, combined with a balanced mix of carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, and minerals for overall health.

The amount of food your Boerboel needs will depend on their age, weight, and activity level. Puppies usually require more frequent meals – around 3 to 4 times a day – while adults can be fed twice daily. Always follow the feeding guidelines provided by your vet or pet food manufacturer.

Remember, Boerboels are prone to obesity, so it’s essential to monitor their food intake and keep those extra pounds at bay. Regular weigh-ins and body condition assessments can help you keep track of their weight.

Each Boerboel is unique and what works for one might not work for another. It’s always a good idea to consult with your vet to create a personalized feeding plan for your Boerboel.

Treats

Treats are a great tool for training, but they should be given sparingly. Make sure treats don’t make up more than 10% of your Boerboel’s daily calorie intake. Opt for healthy options like fruits, vegetables, or dog-specific treats.

Water

Water is as important as food in your Boerboel’s diet. Ensure they always have access to fresh, clean water, especially during hot weather or after exercise.

boerboel walking in an open field
Photo: EstrellaBuena/Getty Images

Health

The Boerboel, with its majestic stature and robust build, is generally a healthy breed. These dogs have an average lifespan of 9-11 years. However, like any breed, they’re prone to certain health conditions.

Here are common health issues associated with Boerboels:

Hip and Elbow Dysplasia: These are genetic conditions that affect the joint formation, leading to discomfort and mobility issues.

Heart Disease: Boerboels can be susceptible to various heart conditions, including aortic stenosis and dilated cardiomyopathy.

Eye Disorders: Conditions such as entropion, ectropion, and progressive retinal atrophy can affect their eyesight.

Bloat: This is a life-threatening condition where the stomach fills with gas and possibly twists.

Obesity: Boerboels love their food, making them prone to weight gain if their diet isn’t properly managed.

Now, while this list might seem daunting, don’t fret! There are plenty of measures you can take to ensure your Boerboel stays as healthy as possible.

A balanced diet is the first step towards good health. Feed your Boerboel high-quality dog food that meets their nutritional needs. Keep treats to a minimum and monitor their weight regularly to prevent obesity.

Regular exercise is also key. It not only helps keep their weight in check but also strengthens their joints and muscles, reducing the risk of dysplasia.

Don’t underestimate the power of regular vet check-ups. Early detection of health issues can make a significant difference in treatment outcomes. Your vet can guide you on preventive care, vaccinations, and any necessary screenings for your Boerboel.

boerboel taking a bath at the lake
Photo: Alvydas Kucas/Getty Images

History

Step back in time with me to the rugged landscapes of South Africa, where the story of the Boerboel (pronounced “boo-r-bull”) breed begins. These powerful dogs have a rich history that’s as captivating as their imposing stature and loyal personality.

The Boerboel’s roots can be traced back to the 1600s when Dutch, French, and British settlers brought their large, strong dogs to South Africa. These dogs were bred with local African breeds, creating a new type of dog that was resilient, protective, and perfect for the harsh African terrain. The name ‘Boerboel’ means ‘farmer’s dog’ in Afrikaans, reflecting their role as protectors of homesteads.

Over the centuries, the Boerboel proved its worth by courageously defending farms from dangerous predators like lions and hyenas. They were also used for hunting and as draught animals. Despite their tough exterior, they were known for their gentle nature around children, making them an integral part of many families.

Fast forward to the 20th century, the Boerboel began to gain recognition beyond South Africa’s borders. However, it wasn’t until January 1, 2015, that the breed was officially recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC). This marked a significant milestone in the Boerboel’s history, further solidifying its status as a beloved breed worldwide.

Parent Club

The parent club for the Boerboel in the United States is known as the American Boerboel Club (ABC). This club was founded with the mission to protect and enhance the integrity of the Boerboel breed. The ABC was established in 2004, making it a relatively young organization but one that’s deeply committed to this distinctive breed.

Breed Standard

A breed standard is a set of guidelines established by breed clubs or kennel organizations, defining the ideal appearance, temperament, and physical traits of a specific breed. 

It serves as a reference for breeders, judges, and enthusiasts to evaluate and maintain a breed’s unique qualities. Covering aspects like size, appearance, and temperament, breed standards are used in dog shows and competitions to assess individual dogs against the ideal representation of their breed.

Check the Boerboel’s breed standard as set by the American Kennel Club (AKC).

two boerboel puppies looking up
Photo: AfricaImages/Getty Images Signature

Acquiring

Thinking of welcoming a Boerboel into your life? That’s exciting news! But remember, preparation is key.

This breed requires plenty of exercise and socialization, so be ready for active playtimes and walks. They’re also quite large, so make sure you have enough space at home. If you’re buying, only choose reputable breeders to ensure your new friend is healthy and well-bred.

But have you considered rescuing? There are many Boerboels out there waiting for a loving home. Rescuing not only gives a dog a second chance, but it’s also a rewarding experience for you. The American Kennel Club and the American Boerboel Club can help guide you on this journey.

Remember, whether you buy or rescue, bringing home a Boerboel means adding a loyal, gentle, and protective member to your family. Good luck!

FAQs

Is the Boerboel the strongest dog in the world?

While the Boerboel is a powerful and muscular breed, it’s not considered the absolute strongest dog in the world. That title often goes to breeds like the Mastiff or the Saint Bernard. However, Boerboels are certainly among the most robust and physically strong dogs out there.

Is the Boerboel a good family dog?

Yes, the Boerboel can make an excellent family dog, given the right training and socialization. They are known to be protective, loyal, and affectionate towards their family. However, they are a large and powerful breed, so they may not be suitable for families with very young children or for first-time dog owners.

Is the Boerboel bigger than a Cane Corso?

Boerboels and Cane Corsos are both large breeds, but Boerboels tend to be slightly larger on average. Male Boerboels typically weigh between 110 and 200 pounds and stand 24-27 inches tall at the shoulder, while male Cane Corsos generally weigh between 99 and 110 pounds and stand 24-27 inches tall.

Is the Boerboel a lazy dog?

No, the Boerboel is not typically considered a lazy dog. This breed is quite active and requires regular exercise to maintain its health and happiness. A Boerboel can become bored and potentially destructive if it doesn’t get enough physical and mental stimulation.

How long does a Boerboel live?

The typical lifespan of a Boerboel is around 9-11 years. Like all breeds, individual health, diet, and overall care can significantly influence a dog’s lifespan.

Are Boerboels easy to train?

Boerboels are intelligent and eager to please, which can make them relatively easy to train. However, they are also a dominant breed, so they require a confident handler who can provide consistent, firm, but gentle guidance.

Do Boerboels shed a lot?

Boerboels have a short, dense coat that does shed, but not excessively. Regular brushing can help keep shedding under control and keep the coat healthy.

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